By Andrew Gough, VP of Sales at HelloDone.
The pandemic hasn’t halted our desire to shop. It’s accelerated the amount of it we do online. There’s great satisfaction in having your favourite brands at the click of a button and avoiding busy shop floors. But the customer experience online still has a long way to go - particularly when it comes to the dreaded 'last mile'.
In the wake of the pandemic, e-commerce retailers have been scrambling to keep up with our changing needs. A recent survey by KPMG showed that 67% of decision-makers accelerated their digital transformation strategies because of COVID-19.
Aiming to address falling revenue and disrupted supply chains, retailers are turbocharging their shift to digital. So why are consumer expectations still not being met? Two words: post-purchase.
Failing to deliver
The evidence is plain to see in our latest research which analysed 3,000 one-star reviews across 150 major UK retailers on Trustpilot. More than half (55%) of customer complaints were attributed to issues with delivery and returns.
Orders not arriving was the most commonly cited problem, accounting for nearly half (48%) of all reviews that mentioned delivery, while late delivery (17%) was the second most common complaint.
The highest proportion of post-purchase problems reported were among retailers in the fashion (68%), sports & leisure (51%) and specialist (49%) categories. Fashion (28%) and sports & leisure (17%) also had the most mentions of returns in their reviews.
As more of us do our shopping online than ever before, customers have come to expect big things from internet retailers. But our findings show that the post-purchase experience has failed to keep pace with these growing demands.
A retailer’s relationship with a customer doesn't end at the ‘thanks for your order!’ email. Last-mile delivery, as well as exchange and returns processes, require the same care and attention paid to the checkout stage of the buyer journey.
A major source of frustration for shoppers is a lack of information about their order and the inability to contact customer support when problems arise. In fact, our research found that more than a quarter of one-star reviews (27%) on Trustpilot expressed dissatisfaction with customer service response.
If retailers want to retain loyalty and nurture repeat business, it’s clear they have to massively improve the way they communicate with their customers.
How AI can help
In an ideal world, of course, every delivery would reach the customer on time and in pristine condition. But logistics is a complex business. So what can retailers do to improve the customer experience after the buy button?
The solution lies in the latest AI technology. Thanks to advances in natural language processing, retailers can now harness conversational AI technology to automate common requests, such as WISMOs (Where is My Order?), and provide proactive status updates to keep customers informed.
This presents the opportunity for quick, real-time notifications and delivery alerts, as well as intelligent and contextualised answers to order FAQs, creating a memorable, hyper-personified experience for customers.
Not only does this reduce the overall volume of inbound requests, but frees up customer service agents to handle the most complex and sensitive tickets. By embracing this technology to improve customer communication, retailers can provide enhanced support and leave shoppers with a good impression of their brand - even when there are issues to resolve.
The post purchase opportunity
Forward-thinking retailers are already taking ownership of the post-purchase experience, using context-driven AI technology to power personalised conversations with their customers and manage expectations when things go wrong.
But the e-commerce industry is yet to wake up to the scale of the post-purchase opportunity.
It’s amazing to think of the time and money brands spend engaging and attracting a customer online, only to abandon them after the checkout.
If the last 12 months have shown anything, it’s that retailers can no longer rely on their carrier’s web portal or occasional SMS message from delivery providers for post-purchase support. Customers demand and deserve better.
Brands must take accountability for the entire purchase journey and be readily available to customers if they want to succeed in the long term.
Only by leveraging the latest AI technology can retailers transform the ‘last mile’ from a longstanding customer pain point into a source of competitive advantage in a post-COVID world.